Three men appeared before Francistown Senior Magistrate, Peggy Madandume, last week to answer charges of unlawful possession of elephant tusks.
The accused, Orapeleng Marumo, Botsomela Thathobo and Keabetswe Boitshwarelo, were arrested by the police on the 23 of November 2011 in Nata Village after they were found in possession of two elephant tusks weighing 46.2 kg and valued at over P5 000.
The accused have pleaded not guilty to the offence.
Giving evidence in court, a police detective, who was part of the arresting team, said that on the 23 of November in 2011 he received information from his sources in Nata Village that there were some men driving a white van in the village and were carrying elephant tusks. He said that he then alerted his team and they then conducted a search for the men.
“We then located the vehicle and we stopped and searched it. We found two elephant tusks hidden in a pile of grass at the back of the vehicle. The first and the second accused were the ones travelling in the vehicle at that time,” he said.
The officer added that the two men then failed to answer or produce any certificate to prove ownership of the tusks and he warned and cautioned them for a charge of unlawful possession of elephant tusks. He then took the men to Nata Police Station for interrogations where they were later remanded in custody. He said that the following day, on the 24th November 2011, the two accused implicated one Boitshwarelo as a partner in the crime and he was said to be at a cattle-post near Manxotai Village.
“The two accused led us to the cattle-post where we then arrested the third accused,” said the detective.
He added that after further interrogations by the police, the three accused men confessed that they cut off the elephant tusks from a dead elephant near Manxotai Village. The accused led the police to the scene and they found a dead elephant with its tusks cut.
“We indeed found a dead elephant and its tusks removed. The tusks we took from the accused persons were later taken to the biologist to determine if they were elephant tusks and it emerged that they were indeed elephant tusks,” the detective said.
However, during cross examinations, all of the accused claimed that they were sent by Wildlife Officers to collect elephant tusks in the area surrounding Nata and deliver them to their offices. They said they were on their journey to deliver the tusks as instructed.
The two elephant tusks and the van were used as exhibits in court.
The case continues as the prosecution is yet to call four more witnesses. The accused are all out on bail.